In a recent Telegraph column, the journalistic ghillie Alan Cochrane fired off a few more, poorly aimed, shots at Alex Salmond. The coonsil hoose kid who’ll accompany any Tory grandee on the grouse moors likes to do that. His self-aggrandising diary about the 2014 referendum campaign was titled Alex Salmond: My Part in His Downfall. In similar vein, his most recent column was headlined ‘Alex Salmond is desperate to remain relevant to Scottish independence, but no one’s missing Wee Eck.’ I’m not going to quote much from it except the intro:
Is there anyone out there who misses Alex Salmond? You know, that guy who used to be the First Minister and leader of the SNP but who, for a variety of reasons, disappeared from the political world but then staged a comeback with a new party, which then crashed and burned at the May 6 election.
Does the Telegraph employ two Alan Cochranes? Surely the author of the above cannot be the same Alan Cochrane who told us on May 5 that ‘the SNP may need to work with Alex Salmond’s Alba to keep a pro-independence majority’. Havering with another Telegraph scribe on the paper’s Chopper’s Politics podcast, someone called Alan Cochrane said the following:
I was talking to some strategists yesterday and he’s more popular in the North East of Scotland than say Nicola Sturgeon with nationalists. So he’ll get a seat there, and if he gets two or three others he could be in a position to influence the overall nationalist independence majority in the parliament.
If you’re in need of a guid laugh, listen to the rest of that podcast. Then, to see how poorly aimed the other Alan Cochrane’s latest pathetic potshot is, go watch the first of Mr Salmond’s weekly video updates for Alba members. You’ll be hastily reminded how and why ‘Wee Eck’ became a giant in Scottish politics and why a growing number of us are glad to see this legend resuming his rightful place at the heart of Scottish politics.
Alex Salmond might not be any more than the interim leader of Alba, but he is certainly going to play a decisive role in this new breakaway party and in the continuing struggle for Scotland.
The first point he makes in this video is that Alba is now the fastest growing political party on these islands. So much so, it is needing to reschedule its inaugural autumn conference because the original venue won’t be big enough to hold all the delegates. So rejoice, rejoice, he tells party members. Quite rightly. Leaders are dealers in hope, as Napoleon said, and don’t we all need a wee dollop of hope these days?
The most significant aspect of this short film isn’t what Mr Salmond says so much as how he says it. During the long years I spent in Scotland’s legacy media, I rubbed shoulders with the former SNP chieftain and first minister on numerous occasions but I’ve never been as impressed or uplifted by him as I was watching this vlog.
It is impossible to imagine anyone else on this planet emerging from the cruel ordeal to which he was (and still is) subjected so calm and clearly at peace with himself and the world. That old saying ‘what doesn’t destroy you makes you stronger’ is strongly debatable but Alex is certainly an advert for it. He had the full weight of the Anglo-British state (and its agents in the Unionist press and broadcast stations) brought down upon him and they did not destroy him. Far from it. He’s probably never felt stronger. They threw everything they thought they had on him – at him – and what was the outcome? Not guilty!
Even today many powerful and influential folk – from the current First Minister to her stenographers in the Scottish media – cannot bring themselves to accept the verdict of a female majority jury. Yet the target of so much lasting vindictiveness has come out smiling from Salmondgate. Not (and this is vital) in any smug manner. His previous trademark smirk has vanished. An enormous relief since it not only got up the noses of his Unionist enemies but also on some nationalists’ nerves. Certainly mine.
In his video Alex Salmond demonstrates that he is, even more than before, a truly masterful political communicator. There isn’t anyone at Pacific Quay who could have delivered such a lengthy, polished piece-to-camera without glancing at notes or stumbling at bits. Certainly no one who could segue so comfortably from an upbeat party pep talk into profound reflection upon the present state of Scottish and British politics. Especially in the segment towards the end where he gently advises Prince William to stay above constitutional politics, Mr Salmond comes across as what he undoubtedly is – a wise, elder statesman.
Smarter members of the Unionist commentariat than Alan Cochrane – not hard to find – continue to recognise (albeit grudgingly) the Alba leader’s enduring political strengths. In a recent column in the Times headlined ‘Alex Salmond is down but not out of the picture’, Kenny Farquharson shrewdly observed:
When he lost his Gordon seat in the 2017 general election, Salmond quoted a Sir Walter Scott poem in praise of the Jacobite commander John Graham, the first Viscount Dundee: “You’ve not seen the last of my bonnets and me.” It was true then. It is true now. Alex Salmond will be part of our politics for some time yet.
The question is what part should he play? My own thoughts on that are evolving by the day. I’ll share them here when I’m really sure what I believe to be in Alba’s and Scotland’s best interests. For now, just scroll back up and savour that wee video again.